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Beautiful and Terrible Things

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

Frederick Buechner

We recently had a medical emergency in our family. Our little daughter suffered multiple seizures, the last of which was so severe that despite being given multiple doses of anti-seizure drugs, the plan was to induce a coma to stop the prolonged seizure and prevent brain damage.

The vision of our tiny 2-year-old girl convulsing and unconscious while doctors prepared to put her into a coma, replays in my mind. Like an intruder, the terrible memory barges in, unwelcome and uncaring about the damage it’s causing.

My heart pounds as the emotions vividly wash over me afresh. All at once my palms turn sweaty, a lump forms in my throat, and I want to scream for fear of losing her. Yet I look around, and no one knows; everyone else has moved on. Even little Marigold is moving on, laughing, playing and living her life as if this never happened. I feel utterly alone in my grief.

Weeks ago, before this terrible event, we’d planned a little family getaway to the beach. As we arrived, peace washed over me. My heart filled; I was no longer pouring from an empty cup (yes, it’s possible to pour from a dry bone cup – I know this because I’ve done it!), and the world felt beautiful again.

The books I’ve been reading have become my hiding place. A place where people don’t disappoint, I’m not rejected or told I don’t measure up as I turn each page, and the characters don’t demand from me what I cannot give them right now. But I know I can’t hide out in their beauty for too long, and soon enough, the terribleness of the world beckons me.

Alas, the beauty fades.

Upon returning home from the beach and closing those lovely books, the weight of my burdens settle heavily again, and suddenly the terrible seems to outweigh the beautiful.

I’m feeling numb. My human heart wants to despair. I know the Lord and His promises, yet a vast canyon of grief seems to separate me from holding onto them, and I cannot pray.

My near-broken heart wants to shut down, perhaps from fear of truly breaking. Every bit of resilience I had left has been shattered.

Some would tell me that I have too little faith, they’re probably right. But I cry out; “I do believe, but help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24)

Oh, give me a heart of flesh, Lord, and restore to me the joy of your salvation!

When the terrible invades and all seems hopeless, my favourite poem whispers to me from my memories,

“Sparkle up, little tired flower leaning in the grass! Did you find the rain of night too heavy to hold?”

And beauty breaks through.

I hug my children goodnight, and Evelyn whispers, “You’re the best mummy ever in the world”. And beauty breaks through.

Strong arms wrap around me as my beloved holds me. And beauty breaks through.

The sun sneaks through the clouds, and I turn my face to be kissed by the rays. And beauty breaks through.

I think of Jesus and his open embrace, his longing to lift my burdens, his desire to answer my prayer for a greater portion of faith, his willingness to turn my stony heart to flesh and to be the light that sparkles in my life, raising me up after the downpour. And beauty breaks through.

I catch those glimpses of beautiful things, and I store them up in my hardened heart, begging to be brought back to life.

And I make the decision; I will not be afraid of the terrible. These things will all become untrue as the truly beautiful one – Jesus – breaks through.

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